Tales from the Cabin
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The Secret Spot

A fishing hole’s magic never goes away

By Jay Wrolstad
Published: April 1, 2006
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Photo by Jay Wrolstad
“Let’s dig up some worms and go to the secret spot,” says my 12-year-old son, his voice full of expectation. And why not? We haven’t had any luck elsewhere on the lake this week and the site in question has proven over time to provide plenty of action.
   
So, with bait in hand we motor over in our small fishing boat to the “secret spot.” In truth, it is not a patch of water hidden from view in a cove or bay and known to only a few. Our secret spot actually is not far from our cottage. But in the five years we’ve been catching bass, bluegills and pike there, we’ve never shared its exact location with anybody else.
   
Approaching the right vicinity, I throttle down the outboard and we consult on the best place to drop anchor. There is no need to take a GPS reading, or to scrutinize the blips on an electronic fish-finder, even if we had such high-tech gear on board (my son is of the opinion that such aids are cheating). It’s all about guestimating based on well-known landmarks – a patch of lily pads, a dock on the east shore, a tall pine that rises above the trees around it.
   
We reach an agreement and let the anchor fall. Sure enough, within minutes the bobbers are bouncing and we are pulling in the bluegills, some of the bigger ones causing thrills for the kid and putting a smile on the face of his dad. I live for moments like this; the two of us sharing some quality time doing something we both enjoy in our own private world.
   
I look at my son and see myself, too many years ago, doing the same thing with my own father on this lake. Our family ate a lot of panfish back then, for they were such a reliable source of food. Nearly every day my father would row the boat out to his secret spot, opposite a resort and about 100 yards from the sandbar off the other shore. Then my two sisters and I would drop handheld lines into the water and anxiously wait for that telltale tug that let us know we had a fish on.
   
We always caught fish despite the primitive method employed, and that invariably led us back to the same spot. And given our success, we never tired of the routine.
   
I haven’t taken my son to that spot because, perhaps subconsciously, I feel that was something special between my father and me. My son needs his own “secret spot” to create memories of his own. Besides, if we visited my father’s old spot and got skunked, it would seriously impact his respect for me as an experienced angler.
   
Over the years, I have found several of my own favorite fishing holes. Some held the bigger fish – such as bass and pike – that presented a bigger challenge and bigger rewards for a more experienced fisherman. Some were spots I frequented with my lake friends, and some I kept to myself.
   
Such secrecy is common among fishermen, who are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to divulging the details of their catches. Ask them where they caught those nice walleye and you’ll likely get some vague response like, “At the north end of the lake,” which could include miles of open water. It rarely does any good to press the issue, since drawing attention to a sweet spot will mean more competition and fewer fish for them.
   
That’s all right, though, because on most lakes there’s plenty of water for everyone to explore. With a little trial and error (okay, maybe a lot of trial and error), it’s possible to discover a favorite fishing hole that you can call your own. As with most things, the fun is in the hunt.
   
That’s what has happened with my favorite fishing companion and me. We’ve found a good spot, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop looking for another one. And when all else fails, we know just where to go to regain the confidence in our ability
to put fish on the stringer.

Jay Wrolstad is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Ithaca, N.Y., and spends as much time as possible during the summer fishing near his cabin in northwest Wisconsin.

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